Sturgeon’s Law - 90 percent of everything is crap - is never more evident than in the world of TV remakes, reboots, and the ever-dreaded “reimaginings.” For every bit of brilliance that is Battlestar Galactica, you have hordes of unlamented dreck like the recent version of Ironside, which didn’t even respect the source material so much as to put the detective back in San Francisco, but instead transplanted him to New York.
New York . . . now there is a city which is crying out for a cop show, there being so few in the last few decades to take place there.
And let’s not forget the remakes of Knight Rider and The Bionic Woman - on second thought, let’s pretend they never existed.
There was even an attempt to retell the early days of the Cartwrights on the Ponderosa some years ago, with Nevada looking an awful lot like Canada. The origins of several characters were drastically rewritten in this show.
Now comes Murder, She Wrote, about a young hospital administrator who also happens to be an amateur sleuth (well, aren’t we all?) who after publishing her first mystery novel finds herself helping the police in their investigations.
Yes, she is a hybrid Angela Lansbury/Dick Van Dyke.
Dick Van Dyke, as we will recall, was the doctor and amateur sleuth who often (like, dude, every week) helped his son move up the promotion ladder in the police department by helping to solve murders. Well, not so much “helping” to solve them, as actually solving them, but why quibble, especially when it’s your son’s career on the line?
Yes, they really aren’t remaking Murder, She Wrote so much as they are Diagnosis Murder - though I suspect the producers may be too dumb to realize this - or are hopping the audience is too dumb to realize it. I was never the biggest MSW fan, but you sort of don’t mess with what made it so successful to begin with. And if you have to steal your ideas from other shows to start with . . .
Somewhere out there is the disastrous Rockford Files reboot they attempted a few years ago, as well as the 2004 Lost in Space pilot episode which also never aired. The Lone Ranger pilot (made about the same time) may have aired, but it is generally considered to be a real stinker.
I began by quoting Sturgeon’s Law. Well, it wasn’t just the Galactica remake which was prime stuff. You’d probably have to buy The Time Tunnel DVD to get this, but included on the second volume is the unaired pilot for the proposed Sci Fi Channel remake. Now, that was a good effort, and beats anything the low-end cable outlet has put on for years.
And yes, Remington Steele is right around the corner
One can’t wait for the retooled Remington Steele pilot. No doubt he’ll be an NRA lobbyist who is also an amateur sleuth, just like the rest of us.
Wonderfalls: Once again, TV execs let magic slip between their inept fingers
Making its debut on Fox in 2004, Wonderfalls was unceremoniously yanked off the air after only four episodes. Which is pretty good, I suppose, compared to what we might see in the future. Many of us can foresee a time when incompetent TV executives might yank a show off the air after the first commercial break.
Part of the problem was that the network simply didn’t know how to promote this quirky little series, in which various stuffed, plastic and brass animals give advice to young slacker Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a recent college graduate (degree in philosophy) who seems unable to find a direction for her life, and finds herself working in a tacky gift store in a Niagra Falls tourist trap located in Wonderfalls, New York.
Her immediate supervisor is the sort of suck-up that we have all learned to recognize and despise over the years, and it doesn’t help matters when, out-of-the-blue, strange creatures begin to give her advice.
It really doesn’t help that the advice they give is so seldom straight-forward, which often results in the comic plot twists that each episode delivers. The advice is usually meant to guide her to helping a perfect stranger, who may or may not appreciate the help they are suddenly receiving.
But Jaye isn’t alone in her adventure, which is also a sort of spiritual quest for self-knowledge. Along the way is her best friend (Tracie Thoms - Cold Case), who helps her, even though she may not always believe the source of her inspiration, and her family - who try to be supportive, in a sort of non-understanding way.
Her family include Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) as her brother who is studying religion, and her sister, played by the brilliant Katie Finneran, an attorney who is struggling with being a lesbian.
When asked if she was uncomfortable playing a lesbian, Finneran told an interviewer that she’d rather be thought of as a lesbian than an attorney.
Jaye is also provided with a love interest (Tyron Leitso), who is constantly frustrated because of her failure to realize that she is able to commit to a relationship. Of course, the fact that he is still technically married to a bride he left on their wedding night doesn’t help matters.
The writing is sharp and funny, and while the series was pulled off the air after four episodes, the entire run of thirteen episodes is offered here. And not only that, but a sense of closure is provided, in that at least the relationship issue between Jaye and her erstwhile boyfriend is settled.
Extras on the DVD set include a behind-the-scenes documentary and a video of the show’s theme song, by Andy Partridge.
Forget about buying Wonderfalls for anyone else; this is one you need to buy for yourself.
Trivia note: Tim Minear co-produced the cult favorite SF series Firefly - also canceled during its first season. Yes, once again by Fox.
Quote of the Day
The lowest action trash is preferable to wholesome family entertainment. When you clean them up, when you make movies respectable, you kill them. - Pauline Kael